COPPERAS COVE — Cari Lowery can see the difference.
Copperas Cove entered the season with a host of new faces replacing 10 seniors, and at times, the inexperienced showed.
Despite winning 16 of their first 17 games, the Lady Bulldawgs made their share of mistakes — both mentally and physically — as many adjusted to competing at the varsity level.
Copperas Cove, however, evolved.
The 24th-ranked Lady Bulldawgs continued their District 8-6A dominance Tuesday evening, defeating visiting Killeen 25-2, 25-6, 25-14, and following the victory, Copperas Cove’s head coach admitted witnessing a transformation in her team.
“The difference is their confidence and maturity,” Lowery said, “and they are growing stronger, and with confidence comes more aggression and being able to bounce back when they make a mistake.
“Early on, they were young and would make a mistake, and then, they’d look at me with their big ol’ eyes, wondering what they did, and we had to try to fix it on the move. Now, they know and they correct themselves.”
The Lady Bulldawgs’ progression was evident after improving on their District 8-6A-opening performance.
A little less than a month ago, Copperas Cove (32-8, 7-0) began district play by producing a 25-14, 25-14, 25-15 win at Killeen, but the score was even more lopsided in the second round.
Outside of the final set, the Lady Bulldawgs allowed the Lady Kangaroos to record consecutive points just once and both came on Copperas Cove errors.
The Lady Bulldawgs won the match’s first 11 points before Killeen finally got on the scoreboard, but it proved inconsequential as Copperas Cove responded with a 14-1 outburst punctuated by one of Janice Fa’aola’s six kills. Lady Bulldawgs junior Aidan Chace led the team with 14 kills.
The Lady Kangaroos, who fell to 0-7 in district competition, earned the opening point of the second set to claim their only lead in the match, but Copperas Cove quickly took control, winning 17 of the next 19 points before inflating its cushion to 24-4.
Killeen thwarted two set points thanks to back-to-back serving and hitting errors by Copperas Cove but fell behind 2-0 on the following point.
The Lady Bulldawgs’ dominance continued in the third set as they immediately constructed a 7-0 advantage, but then, Killeen came to life.
Behind some strong play from seniors Marlen Rodriguez-Gomez, Alia Vines and Sadee Songer, the Lady Kangaroos pulled within two points, 12-10, but would not get any closer as Copperas Cove secured the victory with a 13-4 run.
“Through the first two sets,” Lowery said, “there was nothing else I could ask for. Then, in the third game, they exhaled a little bit and made some mistakes, but that’s just going to happen.
“We can’t expect to beat them 25-4 for three games, because Killeen has athletes.”
Now, Copperas Cove turns its attention toward extending its unblemished run through the district with a home match against Ellison on Friday.
But it will not be easy, according to Lowery.
“It’s hard for young kids to play the second half of district after they’ve won every game in the first half,” she said.
“It’s a test, but they stepped up and controlled the game against Killeen.”